Nicola Sturgeon hit by crisis – strike chaos to leave Scots streets piled with rubbish

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Council workers in the GMB and Unison at 13 local authorities are turning their backs on a two percent pay rise offered to them by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla). Schools, early years workers and cleansing departments are set to take part in the widespread industrial action,causing a new headache for the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon. Members in councils voted to reject the pay offer. The Unison, Unite and GMB unions want a £3,000 pay rise for the council workers they represent, as well as a £12 an hour rate as a minimum.

Trade unions have warned “waste could pile high” as a result of strike action.

Cosla leaders will hold crunch talks on Friday, with Unison insisting they propose an improved offer to avoid mass disruption to council services across Scotland.

Johanna Baxter, Unison head of local government, said: “Council workers south of the border yesterday were offered a flat rate uplift of £1,925, which for those on the lowest pay equates to a 10.5 percent increase.

“You have to wonder why council workers north of the border have only been offered a measly two percent increase when the cost of living continues to spiral.

“It is clear now that local government workers have had enough and are prepared to strike in the coming weeks unless we see a sensible offer, from Cosla, on the table on Friday.”

GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Unless Ministers and Cosla make a significantly improved pay offer for the consultation of our members then strike action is happening across these vital services.

“The two percent that’s already been massively rejected is a shameful proposal, it’s worth less than a tenner a week extra for those earning £25,000 or under, and it will turn a cost-of-living crisis into a catastrophe for many workers and their families.

“Two years ago, these workers were applauded on the doorstep by political leaders, but now they are being told to suffer massive real terms pay cuts ahead of a brutal winter with forecasts of double-digit inflation and energy bills over £3,000.

“Our members are angry and scared, and the prospect of tens of thousands of council workers falling into the growing ranks of the working poor is not something GMB is prepared to leave unchallenged.”

The Scottish Conservatives warned the strike action is “deeply concerning”, with chairman Craig Hoy MSP saying: “Scotland’s schoolchildren have suffered enough during the pandemic, without their education being further hit.

“Amid a global cost-of-living crisis, it’s understandable that workers are looking for fair and significant pay rises.

“But the root cause of this problem is the SNP Government – because they have systematically underfunded Scotland’s local authorities for years, making it impossible for councils to meet wage demands.

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“This year alone, funding to local authorities was cut by £251 million in real terms, according to Cosla.

“Nicola Sturgeon must intervene immediately to prevent these catastrophic strikes going ahead.”

Councillor David Ross, leader of the Labour group at Cosla, and Mark Griffin MSP, local government spokesperson for the party said in a joint statement: “We are disappointed that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) has been unable to make a pay offer that would avoid the need for industrial action, but the responsibility for this lies fairly and squarely with the Scottish Government.

“Many local government workers are already low paid. With inflation running at over nine percent, it’s not right that they should be forced to rely on benefits to bring their income up to a decent level as the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary has been quoted as saying.

“These are the same key workers we clapped for throughout the pandemic – they deserve fair pay not just platitudes.

“Within Cosla, Labour councillors have consistently argued the need for a decent pay rise for our workers and we will continue to press the Scottish Government for the funding necessary to provide this.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Pay settlements for council workers – excluding teachers – are a matter for Cosla and are determined through negotiations at the Scottish Joint Committee (SJC).

“As it is not a member of the SJC, the Scottish government cannot directly intervene in pay negotiations, which are for the trade unions to negotiate with Cosla.

“The Scottish government urges all parties to continue dialogue and seek a resolution which avoids industrial action.”

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